So… last week I did something I don’t normally do! I wrote an e-mail to a sports columnist from msn.ca about a column he had written about Breakfast with Scott (what some might call the Gay Hockey Movie) that I thought was homophobic.
Mr. Carefoot, the columnist, was very gracious with my criticism and responded to me twice, for which I thank him. Please note that I am not trying to attack him personally with this post, but only to look at the ways in which, journalists especially, must be careful with the language they use and with what that language and rhetoric suggests or implies.
What bothered me about the article was the way in which he contextualized the issue – which was to talk about it as though it were the worst thing that could happen and refer only to the controversy and anger that people would have because of it, instead of thinking about how this might also be liberating for some hockey fans. Here’s a couple of excerpts:
Of course, there are those who believe that a very clear statement is being presented with this tacit approval from the NHL – such as the unironically-named “Americans for Truth” website, which wrote, “As a work of homosexual propaganda, the film is clearly meant to target the last vestiges of resistance to normalized homosexuality among Canadians.”
Regardless of the intent of the film-makers, it’s impossible to ignore the significance of the fact that the NHL and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment allowed their valuable brand to be associated with this film. To put it in perspective, imagine the response if somebody tried to get the Dallas Cowboys to allow the use of their iconic blue-and-white star in a similarly-themed movie.
If there was going to be a major sports league to make this leap first, it pretty much had to be the one with the most Canadian performers and consumers. Like it or not, this subject continues to be a significant difference in fundamental values between Canadians and Americans.
However you feel about the issue, it’s worth noting that there has yet to be a player who is publicly “out” during his NHL career. And if there is a more macho sports environment than the average hockey locker room, good luck finding it. With that in consideration – however you feel about the NHL and it’s involvement with this movie – this is a bold move.
“Breakfast With Scot” is scheduled for wide release in November. Have you seen it? Will you see it? Or will you burn your Maple Leafs jersey in protest? You know how to let us know…
I wrote the author telling him that I thought his article was implicitly homophobic. Although he doesn’t say that homosexuality is a bad thing he implies that it is and only expects anger and outrage from the movie. Nowhere in his article did he quote a gay rights group, or the makers of the movie in order to give their perspective on the issue, and yet he quoted the ‘Americans for Truth’ website, arguably a highly biased and very homophobic institution.
He also uses some highly leading language and examples – by including the example of the Dallas Cowboys and then by asking in his final sentence whether the reader will burn their Maple Leaf jersey in protest. What about asking whether they will become a Maple Leaf fan in celebration and appreciation – which I’m sure many Canadian sports fans who also support the GLTB community will?
For some reason this article really upset me. At the end of our correspondence Mr. Carefoot pleaded out of resposibility saying he was a sports columnist and not trying to write a political article. But the everything is political isn’t it? And jounalists have a particular responsibility for the words that they write because of how our culture magnifies their voices.
I will leave you with an excerpt from an article written by Amanda Sung that will appear in the next issue of Antigone Magazine. It’s about the ways in which female politicians are portrayed in the media and how it impacts their credibility in very real ways. Here she talks about how what journalists write becomes an agent of normalization.
What Mr. Carefoot is perpetuating is that an angry reaction to a movie about a gay hockey player is normal, natural, and indeed the only reaction one can have. Whether he is just a sports journalist or not, it is my belief that he has a responsibility to not perpetuate prejudice and to be very careful about what he writes because of the fact that his words reach and influence such a great body of people.
Although millions of people read news on a daily basis, few of them are aware of the ideological implications embedded in what they read. The unawareness among the audience originates from Antonio Gramsci’s philosophy of hegemony, where social inequalities clearly exist but often go unnoticed. Hegemony stands for the notion that “the dominant classes exercise social and cultural leadership” over the subordinate groups without a trace of violence.
The way that hegemony functions in the news is through “representing opinions of the powerful”, such as the male politicians or the group of people that advocate normative values as well as what the public considers as consensus, and so on. Another reason that inherent social inequalities are often unseen is the ways the journalists construct news, which is the most common daily dose for citizens.
In the majority of mainstream news contents, the journalists compose their stories in the manner of what is considered objectivity. By subscribing to the characteristics of “objectivity”, mainstream journalists construct their news stories as if what is presented in the news is normative and how things “ought to be”.
Who has the access to be quoted, define an issue, or make a statement in a news story is chosen by the journalist in order to avoid being controversial and meet commercial logic. The hierarchical relations of whose voice is credible, acceptable, or representative of the dominant group embedded in the mind of a mainstream journalist results in marginalization of alternative, subordinate social groups, and depoliticization of important issues, in this case, gender equality.